Great gardening gifts

Kat Fox

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Books are always a welcome gift for many gardeners.

We asked several well-known Canadian gardeners to describe the best gardening gifts they ever received, and what they consider to be the perfect gift for a new gardener. It’s no surprise that their answers were thoughtful, practical and simply down to earth. Here is a complete list their responses; some were published in the Winter 2012/13 issue of Garden Making. [Of course, we’re delighted when people give Garden Making as a gift. Thank you!]

Have your own favourite gifts and suggestions? Share them in the comments section below!

Beckie Fox, editor-in-chief of Garden MakingA gift of time is always appreciated by me, because I have so little of it. For Mother’s Day this year, my daughter and future daughter-in-law spent a few hours digging in leaf mould as they turned over the soil in four large raised beds I use for vegetables and cutting flowers. The weed-free beds were raked smooth and ready to go when I went outdoors to plant.

A gift certificate to a local nursery, two tickets to a local garden tour or an annual membership to a botanical garden would all help inspire new gardeners.

Paul Zammit, director of horticulture at Toronto Botanical Garden: My immediate response to the question of what I would want as a gift would be more land to plant more plants so I can buy more plants…. Oh, it’s not about me, is it!

Gary Lewis, owner of Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd. in B.C. and Canada Region Director of Perennial Plant Association: Books. Books. Books. I love books. I’m a confessed bibliophile…and a confessed plantaholic. A good gardening book is fantastic. And even if I don’t have time to read it cover to cover, it at least looks great sitting on my shelf with all the other books in a colourful library garden of knowledge!

Every new gardener needs information and inspiration. They need to know what is possible and they need to be given ideas so they can really dream their garden into existence and make it more successful and beautiful than it would have otherwise been. So, I would say the best gift for a new gardener would be books, books, books!

Liz Klose, Landscape Priorities Manager at Canadian Nursery Landscape Association: The best gardening gift I ever received was set of stainless steel tools – spade, edger and garden fork, all with red oak handles. The gift was totally unexpected – it was a gift from the students and my former colleagues at the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture. Practical? Absolutely!

Every gardener needs a good spade. It can edge, dig up new planting places, plant trees, shrubs, perennials and haul out the biggest of weeds.

Colleen Zacharias, co-chair of Manitoba Master Gardener Association: Years ago my oldest and dearest friend, Susan, dropped by unexpectedly and handed me a small, tin watering can in the shape of a teapot. I loved its Aladdin’s-lamp shape, curved handle and oversized dragonfly attached just beneath the long spout. “I picked this up for you because I know you like tin”, she said. I knew instantly what I was going to do with it. A few days later when she came by, the teapot was sitting on my patio table – potted up with impatiens, lobelia and other small-leaved, dainty blooms. “It’s supposed to be a watering can!” she burst out with dismay. I told her that I saw its potential immediately as a planter. “But what about drainage? The roots will rot!” I told her that I drilled holes in the bottom first. Each year she tells me she still can’t believe that I drilled holes in what was supposed to be a gift of a watering can. This year I planted it with baby tears – it’s a keeper.

One Christmas my younger son, Charles, who is not a gardener but who remains amused by my all-consuming passion for gardening, gave me a large, heavy book – Canadian Encyclopedia of Gardening (Editor-in-Chief Christopher Brickell, Editor-in-Chief for Canada Trevor Cole). What a book. I would highly recommend it for new and seasoned gardeners alike. With more than 700 pages chock full of gardening information on every gardening topic there is, I refer to it regularly. It’s heavy and unwieldy to say the least, but has taken on the worn appearance of a much-thumbed paperback.

Bob Martin, of Martin Farms Ltd., in Vineland, Ont.: My pointed hoe. My current one is actually the replacement for the original one I was given, because it wore out. I am a true believer in hoeing my gardens on as close to a weekly basis as possible. Keeping ahead of the weeds makes it an easy and quick task, and keeping the soil cultivated and loose goes a long way in having healthy plants.

A great gift is a new trowel. I still plant a lot of annuals and vegetables and there is nothing worse than a cheap trowel that bends, or one that is too small and doesn’t dig a big enough hole.

Niki Jabbour, author of Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: Every year for my early-spring birthday, I get the same present—a big truckload of composted manure. Who needs diamonds? Give me a huge pile of poop and I’m a happy girl!

Every gardener needs a good compost system. I like a wire compost bin, but there are many great systems that can be used to make homemade compost.

Sonia Day, author of The Untamed Garden: A Revealing Look at Our Love Affair with Plants: Fascinating friends—what fun it is to have so many in my life.

Perfect gift for a new gardener: A brawny young man to do the digging. Famous gardeners had them in the good old days. I wish we still did.

Belinda Gallagher, owner of Hooked on Horticulture Consulting in Ontario: As a plant geek, the best gift I ever received was Flowering Plant Families of the World, by V.H. Heywood et al. I use the book every time I write an article or plant a plant.

Every new gardener needs a 10-gallon jug of patience. Let’s stop with this whole idea of a garden looking finished the day it was planted. Gardening is a journey, not a destination.

Mark Cullen, author, and television and radio host: The best gardening gift I ever received was a hand-blown blue glass ball suspended in a hand-forged iron pergola from my kids. The only gift I would enjoy more is a day of weeding. Alas, that has never happened, so I gaze at the ball and dream.

What does every gardener need? A fan rake.

Lorraine Johnson, author of City Farmer: Three hens — a gift to myself — for the eggs and the soil fertilizer.

Perfect gift: Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education. Very smart, very funny and brilliantly written.

Sean James, president of Fern Ridge Landscaping & Eco-Consulting, Milton, Ont.: Years ago my dad gave me an “As Seen on TV” garden claw. I pretended to like it, and then left it unopened in its box in the shed. One day it was in the way, and I thought, “Well, I might as well assemble it and give it a shot.” I couldn’t believe how well it worked the soil, leaving it in just the right texture. The fact that I was able to sneak around between plants with it and pull out some pretty major weeds also made me happy. I realized what a goof I had been for leaving it so long.

I would give someone a good pond pump and then offer help to design and build it for them. A pond is magical and no landscape should be without one — and the pump is a good start.

Mark Disero, creator of My two-wheel wheelbarrow. As I get older, it gets more useful.

The best gift I could give would be cuttings of plants from my garden. They usually come with good advice on how to grow them. That’s how I got started.

Donna Balzer, co-author of No Guff Vegetable Gardening: A small stainless steel transplant spade with a strong hickory shaft that I’ve had for over 30 years. It was a gift from my mother-in-law. I had circled it in a catalogue, but with young children and no steady income, it was just too expensive for me to buy for myself.

A pair of high-quality stainless steel pruning shears, because it’s hard for a new gardener to justify spending money on a good pair of shears. I like to buy a gift for the future, not just a quick tool for today.

Donna Dawson, creator of It was the gift of the love of growing flowers and vegetables from my mother. I got it when I was a young teen and didn’t even realize how it would change my life until much later on.

Trowels-down, the perfect gift would be a set of good garden tools.

Rob Witherspoon, director of the Guelph Turfgrass Institute & Environmental Research Centre in Ontario: My aunt gave us a young little-leaf linden (Tilia cordata) on the birth of our first child. Over the past 21 years, the tree has grown to grace our yard and shade our living room from the hot sun. The tree has added personal resonance, as it was the species I worked with in my graduate research project at the University of Guelph many moons ago.

A solid garden fork and a locally appropriate gardening book make good gifts.

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